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Women senators: Don't raise speed limit to 75

The state Senate is likely to pass a bill this week that could increase the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph on certain Florida interstates, but it will be far from unanimous.

Several women senators in both parties are critical of the idea, calling it dangerous and an invitation to more car crashes. The opponents include Sens. Nancy Detert, R-Venice; Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville; Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Gwen Margolis, D-Aventura; Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood; and Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.

"It's absurd," Gibson said at a Wednesday breakfast meeting of Senate Democrats, as the co-sponsor, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, sat a few feet away.

"The bill basically allows the state Department of Transportation to set the speed limit, rather than politicians," Clemens said. "It bases the speed limit on science rather than on opinion."

Clemens and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed the bill (SB 392) in the Senate. It would give DOT engineers the option to increase the "safe and advisable" speed limit to 75 on limited access interstates, including I-10 in North Florida, the Suncoast Parkway and parts of I-75, I-95, I-4 and Florida's Turnpike. Speed limits on other roads could rise from 60 to 65 and from 65 to 70.

Detert called it "crazy" to increase the speed limit to 75 in her southwest Florida district, which is bisected by I-75. "I'm against it because people always go 10 miles over, no matter what it is, so why up it? I don't see the point."

Clemens called it a "myth" that increasing speed limits results in more accidents. A Senate staff analysis of the bill says: "The Federal Highway Administration notes that 'the effects of speed on safety are complex and only partially known.' However, there is clear and convincing evidence that crash severity increases with individual vehicle speed. This finding is supported by theory and statistical analysis."